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Boneyard techs putting F-16's back in the air as drones - KVOA | KVOA.com | Tucson, Arizona

Boneyard techs putting F-16's back in the air as drones

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TUCSON -

It is officially known as AMARG, the Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group. Most know it as "The Boneyard", where the military's unused aircraft is stored at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.

There are currently over 4,000 aircraft resting on four square miles at the east end of the base. While most will never fly again, many are being rebuilt everyday, unseen in nearby hangers. That includes hundreds of fighter jets being turned into drones. The drones will be used as unmanned targets for Air Force and Navy pilots.

The Boneyard has been used to store military aircraft since 1946. It has been the military's only storage facility since 1965. It is far from a graveyard. AMARG Deputy Director, Timothy Gray, said aircraft has been restored at Davis-Monthan from the beginning, with parts taken from planes to keep others flying.

"Whether it's a B-52 that's been flying for over 60 years and is still flying, AMARG removes parts off of aircraft stored here to those aircraft flying", Gray said. "Or all the way to the F-16, to where we are regenerating it to become another aircraft for another service."  

While the military has been putting drone technology in aircraft since the 70s, it has now become so advanced, F-16 Fighter Jets are now being refitted to take to the skies again, unmanned, able to perform the same maneuvers as jets with pilots on-board.

Gray said there are over 400 F-16s at The Boneyard right now, more than half are in the process of becoming drones.

"All told, we are going to be doing about 210 F-16s and turn them in to targets," said Gray. "We have the right balance of manpower at our facilities to do 30 aircraft per year or one aircraft every 12 days."

Once the transformation is complete, the F-16's will be flown by on-board pilots for 300 hours, then they become the enemy.

"Each pilot will get an opportunity to go up air to air and actually have to out maneuver the aircraft, arm his missile and shoot it off the rail," Gray said. "Actually blast this aircraft out of the sky, over the ocean."  

AMARG technicians are currently working to put their 23rd F-16 drone back in the air.

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